A Conversation with Glynnis MacNicol, author of I’m Mostly Here to Enjoy Myself
What is I’m Mostly Here to Enjoy Myself About?
It’s about five weeks I spent in Paris in August, 2021, after a year of Covid lockdown, hurling myself into every good thing I could find: friendship, food, sex…anything pleasurable I could get my hands on, so to speak. In the larger sense, it’s also a meditation on female pleasure, age, and the narratives we have, and lack, around both.
What was in Paris that you couldn’t get in NYC?
I had spent previous summers in Paris and had built a community of friends there. Paris represents pleasure for a lot of people, including me. But for me it’s also a familiar place full of people I know and love and had missed dearly. After a friend’s apartment became available, and the opportunity opened up to go, I just went. I knew I needed to be embraced, literally and figuratively in a way that felt impossible in New York.
What is it about those weeks that you believed merited a book?
I spent the pandemic lockdown alone. Like, alone alone. In a small Upper West Side apartment, in a building that had mostly emptied out, in Manhattan, which was also shockingly empty. I went basically untouched for nearly a year. People were organizing online Tolstoy read-a-longs, but all I wanted were stories about fun. About parties and community and touch. Forget War & Peace, I wanted the dazzle of Diana Vreeland’s memoir DV; the fervor of Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion; and every dance movie party scene on repeat. It felt like a physical craving.
It made me so aware of how few stories we have devoted to enjoyment, particularly where women are concerned. And that the ones we do have are largely hooked to narratives about women in search of husbands.
I came back from that trip so satiated. I’d had so much fun, and so much of it was of the kind you are told is not available to you as you age. I wanted to say, in my own small way, this is possible.
What are some of the false narratives you’re talking about?
I’m turning 50 this year, and as I move into the second half (hopefully) of my life, I’m increasingly sensitive to the fact that the narratives around these decades are proving to be false for me. So much of the messaging around age is that things will only get worse: you will become less desirable, less powerful, less visible. I often find it to be the exact opposite.
The added frustration is that while we each have our individual stories, I know so many women leading similar lives to me, and yet we still struggle to see any evidence of this in the culture. In that sense, this book feels like part of a larger testimonial.
What do you mean by the phrase “radical enjoyment”?
I think women are required to justify their enjoyment. It needs to be preceded by evidence they deserve it. I wanted to try and get away from that, in my own head as well, and just say, you can seek pleasure for pleasure’s sake. You can have fun simply because you want to. Enjoyment is as necessary as anything else.
There is a lot of sex in this book. Was it strange to write sex scenes involving yourself?
I thought it would be, but it was surprisingly easy! Part of what I’m trying to capture in this book is the real-time experience of being there. The vulnerability and excitement of it. Ultimately, the storyteller’s desire to capture this as honestly as possible won out over inhibition; I’m more invested in the truth of the experience than I am in my own discomfort with the details being made public. Ask me again, after I’ve done a few public readings. But I also think, I’m in my late forties; shame is so attached to approval, and I’ve spent a lot of this decade questioning, for myself, whose approval I’m eager for, if anyone’s. Instead, I find I tend to ask: is this a person/institution whose approval is deserving of my concern.
You also talk a lot about movement in this book. Why?
For most of history women have been required to seek permission to be on the move. A woman alone is either considered vulnerable, a threat, or something to be ashamed of. (I still get asked how I’m able to eat alone.) These narratives aren’t an accident, they are used to keep us in place, literally.
For as long as I can remember, the desire to be able to take myself places when I want and how I want has been the defining aspect of my life. I’m so aware of the fact I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. And how lucky I am that the time and place of my birth has allowed me to do the thing I enjoy the most.
I’m also acutely aware that this book is landing in a moment where women’s rights in America, and elsewhere, are being violently rolled back. I was born in 1974, the year after Roe passed. The events in this book occurred the year before it fell, and then were written in the aftermath. 1974 is also the first year women were allowed to have bank accounts and credit cards in their own name. My life, and the small snapshot I provide of it in this book, is evidence of what is possible when women have control over their bodies and finances. I think the fact I, and so many others, no longer have to seek permission to find pleasure is terrifying and threatening to a lot of established power structures.
Your last book, No One Tells You This, was about the year you turned 40. Is I'm Mostly Here to Enjoy Myself a continuation of that?
I think of a lot of my writing as a sort of dispatch: I’m out here, and this is what I’m seeing that I was not prepared to see. No One Tells You This was a reaction to the very slim offerings of narratives we have around women’s lives. Girlhood, marriage, motherhood. The end. All subjects worthy of stories. But there’s so much more. I'm Mostly Here to Enjoy Myself is a continuation of what can happen, and how great it can be, when you keep going.
What was the most surprising thing about these weeks in Paris?
How powerful I felt. Almost all the language we have around aging is diminishing. I knew what I wanted and then I went and got it.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope they just enjoy it. Truly. And that it makes them feel good and empowered to make themselves feel good in whatever way is possible for them.